In part 1 of this series we decided to tackle a problem, how do we determine the difference between Liberal and Conservative Christianity? So we picked an issue that clearly divides Liberal and Conservative Christians, same-sex “marriage”, and we decided to use this document as a starting point, Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage (pewresearch.org).
In part 2 we began the journey. We noted that “Conservative” Judaism ironically supports same-sex “marriage”. Here we will consider an organization that supposedly prohibits same-sex “marriage”, American Baptist Churches USA.
American Baptist Churches has a proud history, and it is worth your time to read the history of the organization.
- American Baptist Churches has it’s own version here under What We Believe.
- American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. (britannica.com) provides the view of an encyclopedia.
One item that is especially striking is that in 1845 the Baptist Church split over the issue of slavery. The Northern Baptists (who later renamed themselves American Baptists) rejected slavery. At that time Southern Baptists supported slavery. So the Southern Baptists separated themselves from the Northern Baptists.
1845 is almost 200 hundred years ago. How do American Baptist Churches now perceive themselves? Well, here is their identity statement, Identity Statement (1998): “We Are American Baptists”. As Christians we are suppose to find unity in our identity in Christ, so the purpose of this identity statement is puzzling. Ostensibly, the statement is innocuous, but it contains all kinds of Liberal buzzwords.
Frankly, American Baptist Churches is a relatively Liberal denomination. Consider several articles.
- The Most Well-known Protestant Denomination: 10 Things Everyone Should Know about Baptists (christianity.com) surveys the Christians who call themselves Baptists. If we read the article carefully, it becomes clear that the Baptists are organizationally splintered, and that American Baptist Churches is a relatively small but vocal splinter.
- What is the American Baptist Church? (gotquestions.org) observes that the churches that make up American Baptist Churches are relatively autonomous. Unfortunately, American Baptist Churches itself has a Liberal bent, places a strong emphasis on social justice, and some of its member churches are devoted to the practices we associate with Liberal churches.
- 5 Beliefs That Set Southern Baptists Apart From American Baptists (newsmax.com) states that the Sourthern Baptist Convention (sbc.net), much larger than American Baptist Churches, is the more Conservative of the two.
- Comparison of Southern Baptist & American Baptist Beliefs (classroom.synonym.coml) confirms that Southern Baptists are American Baptists are distinctly more Conservative.
So what is American Baptist Churches stand on homosexuality? American Baptist Churches has a long list of Identity Statements, Policies and Resolutions on its website. Here is the one on Homosexuality. How does that begin?
AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES USA:
RESPONSES/ACTIONS PERTAINING TO HOMOSEXUALITY
There are two Resolutions that address homosexuality. In October 1992, the ABC General Board passed the resolution “American Baptist Resolution on Homosexuality” which states “. . . the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” In June 1993, the same board passed a resolution: “American Baptist Resolution Calling for a Dialogue on Human Sexuality.” It states “. . . there are a variety of understandings throughout our denomination on issues of human sexuality such as homosexuality” and calls for a “dialogue concerning these issues.” The resolution encourages a process that “seeks unity and avoids divisiveness.”
A summary history of the subsequent responses and activities related to the issue can be found below. (continued here)
What does this document on homosexuality mean in practice? Nothing. At one time American Baptist Churches struggled against the sin of homosexuality. American Baptists now ignore the sin.
How long has this been a serious concern? Here are a couple of articles that describe how the Leaders of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (renamed Transformation Ministries (see here)) separated from American Baptists over the issue in 2006.
- Split among American Baptists over homosexuality is final (bpnews.net)
- Pacific region leaves ABC over homosexuality issue (baptistnews.com)
The Human Rights Campaign (an LGBTQ activist organization) says this about American Baptist Churches.
Following more moderate ideals than the ABA and SBC, ABCUSA is considered one of the most inclusive and radical Protestant bodies. At its core, ABCUSA believes in and advocates for autonomy in religious organization and function, religious freedom through expression and cultural/ethnic inclusion within the church. Of its more traditional values, the denomination believes that the Bible is the divinely authoritative guide for serving God, that believers in Christ need to participate in the Lord’s Supper and full-immersion or believer’s baptism and that all members have the responsibility to inform others of Christ through evangelism and missionary work.
More recently, American Baptist Churches just ignored the issue when a Lesbian couple became the pastors of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The Southern Baptist Convention did not.
- Refusal to remove lesbian pastors leads Southern Baptist Convention to sever ties with DC Baptist Convention (christiantoday.com)
- SBC ends relationship with DC convention (bpnews.net)
How does this difference manifest itself? Do a church search.
- You can find Calvary Baptist in DC (find a church) from the American Baptist Website.
- You cannot find Calvary Baptist in DC (ChurchSearch) from the Southern Baptist Convention website.
So why does that document we are using, Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage (pewresearch.org), classify American Baptist Churches as prohibiting same-sex “marriage”? The document was published in December 2015. That might have something to do with it, but the folks at the Pew Research Center probably made a mistake. Even in 2015, American Baptists did not have a clear position. Regardless of what American Baptists say on their website Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage (pewresearch.org) is out of date now.
So what measure should we use for biblical purity? Is it the Conservatism of a church? No. We have to rely upon our best understanding of the Bible. Consider Jesus’ words, what He said about the respect the Pharisees showed the Word of God.
Matthew 15:1-9 Good News Translation (GNT)
The Teaching of the Ancestors
15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked him, 2 “Why is it that your disciples disobey the teaching handed down by our ancestors? They don’t wash their hands in the proper way before they eat!”
3 Jesus answered, “And why do you disobey God’s command and follow your own teaching? 4 For God said, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and ‘If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death.’ 5 But you teach that if people have something they could use to help their father or mother, but say, ‘This belongs to God,’ 6 they do not need to honor their father. In this way you disregard God’s command, in order to follow your own teaching. 7 You hypocrites! How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you!
8 ‘These people, says God, honor me with their words,
but their heart is really far away from me.
9 It is no use for them to worship me,
because they teach human rules as though they were my laws!’”
Because labels like “Liberal” and “Conservative” mean different things to different folk, we can spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to define the terms and decide who is using those terms appropriately. The object, however, is to please God, not man. Therefore, we are best off going directly to the Bible and trying to understand what God wants from us. That includes finding a church that goes directly to the Bible and tries to teach what it says.
Are the churches that go directly to the Bible and try to teach what it says generally what we would call Conservative Christian churches? Yes, but people abuse labels. We can trust the Bible, but we cannot trust people. We have to do our homework.
What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Well, even American Baptist Churches admits that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible Christian teaching, that is, what the Bible says. Therefore, same-sex “marriage” is a sin. We cannot change that just by saying the Bible says homosexuality is incompatible Christian teaching and then acting as if what the Bible says does not matter. We must love the sinner but hate the sin.